Mental is a word which has far too long been regarded in negative terms and is largely equated with mental illness. Mental illness is often misunderstood; it frightens people and often has attached to it an enormous amount of stigma. People are resistant to the thought of children having mental health problems; with many believing it to be a passing phase which children will eventually grow out off. Yet, statistics continue to document that young people’s mental health problems are common. The time to change website http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ cleverly attempts to distinguish between myths and facts associated with mental health and young people. One such myth is that young people just go through the ups and downs of puberty when the fact is that 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem. Another myth is that it is easy for young people to talk to their friends about their feelings while the reality is that nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.
An annual survey conducted by The Key in early 2015, an organisation providing management support to schools, found that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said they were worried about their pupils’ mental health. Sian Griffiths, Education Editor for The Times reported in October 2015 that Britain’s top private schools have warned that they are facing an “unprecedented” outbreak of self-harm, eating disorders and depression among high-flying pupils weighed down by exam pressures, social media and family breakdown. The NSPCC have recently warned of a “time bomb” of serious mental health conditions after it emerged that more than a fifth of children referred to NHS services for treatment for mental health issues were rejected.
Schools have a crucial role to play in the creation of environments that strengthen relationships thus promoting mental health and well-being. There is pervasive evidence linking academic achievement to mental health and well-being (UK Faculty of Public Health). A history of childhood mental health problems is strongly indicated in the risk factors for developing mental health problems in adulthood. Mental health problems in children inadvertently increases demands on personal social services, education and health services too and are also worrying and costly for families. Therefore, the protection and promotion of young people’s mental health is an investment for life.
There are many types of school based mental health approaches but the most common are:
- Indicated programs aimed at manifesting signs of mental health problems.
- Targeted programs aimed to improve the mental health of children at increased risk of mental health problems.
- Universal programs aim to improve the mental health of the whole population.
Positive evidence of effectiveness was obtained for programs that developed a whole school approach or multifaceted approach to mental health and implemented it continuously for a year. Programs aimed at the promotion of mental health rather than the prevention of mental illness were deemed more effective.
According to the WHO the mental health of young people should be “everybody’s business” and therefore I believe that schools should adopt a whole school approach to Mental Health Promotion.
Below is the links to a script and a PowerPoint I have written on the role of food in mental health promotion. Please feel free to use it in your school to create awareness of this important subject.
Here’s to good Mental Health for us all.